Wardell Stephen Curry II is an American professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. Many players and analysts have called him the greatest shooter in NBA history. According to Stephen, “l try to use every game as an opportunity to witness… BE A WITNESS FOR CHRIST. When I step on the floor, people should know who I represent, who I believe in.”
It is encouraging to see Stephen leveraging his influence in terms of commitment in witnessing Christ. All of us no matter where God has placed us carry an influence.Our primary responsibility is to be committed to witnessing about what we believe in and whom we represent.
This article is to highlight our priority as disciples of Christ to be committed in witnessing Christ through our lives. We will briefly deal with the meaning of witnessing, the rationale behind it and the scope of witnessing. Two Biblical examples will be dealt with.
To begin with we need to have clarity on what is witnessing.
What is witnessing?
A witness in the court of law is required to describe what that person saw and personally experienced. Anything other than personal experience would be hear say and not acceptable legally.
Confessing our sins, accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The human spirit dead in trespasses is brought back to a living relationship with God. This followed by witnessing the Lord in water. Baptism rather than a onetime event is symbolic of a life long process of immersion and absorption of the life of Jesus. The result is a radical life transformation. Such a life experience is each disciple’s testimony which cannot be refuted. This is what we need to keep in mind. Commitment to being witness is not a task to be performed rather than a lifestyle to be lived out on a daily basis.
A lifestyle of witnessing comes by cultivating intimacy with Lord Jesus through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditating the word and fellowship with the saints. To help us in these spiritual disciplines, the Lord has given us his Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave his disciples the promise that the Holy Spirit will keep transforming their lives to confirm to the image and likeness of Jesus and make us his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Having dealt with what witnessing is all about, we also need to address the questionas to why should we witness.
An encounter with the risen Christ, through his revealed word will compel us to share the Gospel which is the only message of hope for the fallen humanity. Entering the Kingdom of God through faith in the finished work of the cross will impregnate us with the Kingdom DNA which is contagious.
By Kingdom DNA I mean an absolute conviction that the Kingdom of God is the only lasting entity. As disciples of Christ we are gripped and driven with the passion to see the Kingdom advancing. The Kingdom of God is God’s reign that has broken into our world in and through Jesus. lt is God’s desire through Jesus to reclaim what Adam lost to Satan.
Although the Kingdom has been inaugurated in this evil age it is yet to come in its fullness. Hence we must continue to be witnesses about the gospel that God has triumphed over the three enemies that have ruined people throughout history: Satan, sin and death.
Our proclamation should be reflected in our lifestyle. Words if not backed by a corresponding lifestyle will lack conviction. As a community we need to shift from a Church-centered to a Kingdom-centered paradigm. This will help us to be the radical counter cultural force in the world the Lord has placed us in. Ed Silvoso in his book Ekklesia states that it is the Church which is God’s instrument for global transformation. ln the midst of the darkness and hopelessness around us, the Church because of its commitment to witnessing can become a radical counter cultural force of Kingdom influencers. Thus bringing the righteousness, peace and joy of the Kingdom into the world (Rom 14:17).
The implication in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-19, is that as disciples of Christ, whether as pioneers, students, housewives and those in the market place, wherever we go we are committed to be witnesses of Christ so as to make disciples of each and every people, language, urban and geographical groups. lt is interesting to read in the book of Acts. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:19-20). In my opinion persecution is missional if we are committed to witnessing Christ wherever we go.
If our commitment is not to this crucial and fundamental task, it means we are focusing our time on the non-essentials.
On the query of his disciples on when he would restore the Kingdom to Israel Jesus answered, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We see the same parallel today in Christ’s disciples obsessed with the fulfilment of eschatological events and similar non-issues but not giving priority to the task of being committed to be his witnesses. While an understanding of eschatology is necessary we should not forget that it has tremendous implications on our present day living here and now as disciples of Christ. We need to be intentional in embracing both the Great commandment and the Great commission.
Let me reiterate that witnessing is not an event but a life style to be embraced. Having understood it we need to grasp how to witness.
How to witness
Francis of Assisi who was an Italian Catholic friar deeply committed to the proclamation and embodiment of the gospel has said, “It is no use walking any where to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
Charles H. Kraft in his book Communication Theory for Christian Witness, states that Christian message is a life message, not simply a word message….if the message is life, only life is an adequate vehicle for its transmission.
We need to keep in mind that that what we proclaim is a relational message; it is nota non-relational message. ln which case, we are not simply the channel of message but part of the message. So then the primary aim of Christian communication is related to behaviour and not simply knowledge. The Christ we proclaim verbally and the Christ we present visually should match.
It means we take up an incarnation model of witnessing which should be reflected in a life of service, humility and simple life style. Failing which we are only presenting aset of rules and regulations which is not going to appeal to people who are already burdened with religion.
This means we need to be aligned to God’s word. God’s word reflects his character and the world need to see Jesus not a religion. ln the book of Deuteronomy, which is a repetition of God’s law to his people we read, ” See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”(Deut. 4:5-6)
Apostle Paul places an emphasis on God’s word to dwell in our hearts while writing to the believers in Colosse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16). This is the basis for renewal of our mind about which Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”(Rom. 12:1-2).
lf we are allowing God’s word to change our lives, then it follows that our life will be a witness and our words will carry legitimacy and authority.
Similarly, when Paul talked about his motivation for sharing the Word of God with others, he said he was compelled by God’s love – “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). It was this love that was his motivation for a lifestyle which backed his message – “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia (Acts 20:18) and again in 1 Corinthians 11 :1 , he says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Our prayer should be to grow in this love so that this love becomes our motivation to be committed in witnessing Christ. Witnessing as a duty to be performed becomes a stressful but if springing out of our love for the Lord it is spontaneous and joyful. This is what we see in the life of Jesus. He was an embodiment of love. That is the reason that unlike the religious leaders of his time, his life was a powerful witness of the Father’s love to the hurting, broken and needy.
Having looked at what, why and how of witnessing it will be good to look up some examples of God’s people who were committed to witnessing.
The Bible provides us with several examples of godly people committed to witnessing irrespective of the situations they were in. I will deal only with two examples which always fascinates me.
Prophet Daniel is one such witness. ln spite of being taken captive and surrounded by beliefs contrary to his faith, he remained committed to God. His commitment to be a witness is revealed in his conviction to stand firm for the God he believed in and served.
Throughout the first six chapters of Daniel, we learn about how Daniel ran into several trying situations that may have caused him to lose faith or give up his beliefs, but Daniel remained a faithful witness in all circumstances. His witness was in one of the most corrupt culture of his time, full of occult and wrong practices.
God’s wisdom and prophetic insight helped him to witness before three kings. He was possessed with a spirit of excellence (Daniel 6:3) and was made an advisor whom the kings sought after.
The key to Daniel’s commitment to witnessing is seen as a result of his dedication to a life of prayer and God’s word (Daniel 6:10, 9:1-3). His life of integrity and loyalty to those he served did not lead him to compromise his faith in God. He took no credit in his success; instead he gave credit to God. His life and commitment to witness is truly an inspiration for us.
Another example is that of Apostle Paul a committed witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are several lessons we can learn from his life but the one important truth of this witness was his commitment to be a witness in every circumstance.
Although in prison for two years in Caesarea, he was committed to witnessing so much so that everybody was hearing the gospel through him. “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (Phil. 1:13; 4.22). Again in Acts we read that even under house arrest, for two years Paul staying in a rented house was a committed witness about God’s Kingdom. (Acts.28:30-31)
We live at a time when there is a tremendous pressure to quiet our witness through intimidation, threats and persecution. This should be our prayer that no circumstances or situation will be a hindrance in our commitment to witnessing. Praise God for several of our fellow believers imprisoned for the sake of the gospel yet firmly committed to be a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of the hostility and adverse circumstances.
For me the one important take away about Apostle Paul as a witness was his Kingdom-centred life. For him in was not his life that mattered but no matter where he was and what he had, he was committed to witnessing Christ because his passion was to see the Kingdom advancing.
Implications of being committed witnesses is that Christ’s return is dependent on the fact that each and every people group is given an opportunity to respond to the testimony of the gospel (Mal.24:14). ln fact this link or close connection is seen between this truth as found in Matthew 24:14 and the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Both these verses emphasizes on worldwide evangelization until the Second coming of Jesus.
God is holding this part of history open so that people, language, urban or geographical group is not denied the opportunity of responding to the testimony of the gospel.
Our obedience to be faithful witnesses is crucial. Since the return of Jesus is dependent on proclaiming the gospel to all peoples, we refuse to get intimidated with evil and despair around us, instead proactively propagate and live out the truth that God’s Kingdom has entered into this Evil Age.
Satan sin and death are always at work to discourage us and destroy our faith.However the power of God’s Kingdom is greater and will prevail. King Jesus our Lord and Master calls us to be his witnesses. Are we busy acquiring security and self-made prestige? We are called to bless the nations by being committed witnesses of the Kingdom.
Stephen Curry’s desire is to use every opportunity to witness and to help those coming into contact with him know who he represents and what he believes in. How about us?
The King is coming to establish his Kingdom and what a joy it will be to hear his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
(The writer acknowledges the use of select bibliography in compiling this article)